Man, I am so glad I bought copies of this book for work.
Butterfly Tattoo by Deirdre Knight made some waves around Romance Bloglandia when it was published in digital format back in 2009. The print version became available just last month, and garnered a very positive review in Publisher's Weekly. I was quite happy to see this review, because as the person in charge of buying adult fiction, that means I also am buying LGBT fiction. And let me tell you, quality B and T isn't exactly growing on trees.
Michael Warner is shell-shocked after the death of his partner, Dr. Alex Richardson. Alex was killed by a drunk driver, but their daughter, Andrea, who was also in the car, survived. The event has shattered their family. Not only is the man Michael shared his life with for the past 12 years gone, but Andrea has stopped calling him "Dad," and has refused to open up about the accident, even with the help of therapy. So imagine Michael's shock and joy when he discovers his 9-year-old daughter has finally opened up to somebody. And it just so happens the woman works on the same Hollywood studio lot that he does.
Rebecca O'Neill was an actress on a successful TV show when she was attacked by a crazed stalker. Miraculously she survived, but not without physical and emotional scars. She now acquires scripts for the studio, and it's when the power goes out in her office that she meets Michael. They are immediately attracted to each other, but Michael's grief, his strained relationship with Andrea, Rebecca's own baggage, not to mention Michael's sexual orientation for the last 12 years, make this a complicated potential relationship.
I'm a total sucker for romances that feature emotionally haunted characters. It's a tight-rope for the author to walk, but there is nothing quite so satisfying as reading about two damaged souls finding each other, falling in love, and moving beyond their pasts. That's exactly what we have here. Rebecca is still haunted by her attack, to the point where panic attacks still occur. Michael is still heavily grieving for the man he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with. The added complication of his daughter's grief, only adds to his despair.
Michael's bisexuality is either going to work for readers, or it's not. There's really no middle ground here. The author emphasizes that Michael fell in love with Alex - not just "some guy." Likewise, Michael falls in love with Rebecca - not just "some woman." It's about being open to love the person, not the label that is attached to them. However, the fact that Michael was in a long-term, committed relationship with a man (and they were raising a child together), definitely adds another twist to the conflict. Can Michael not only get past his grief for Alex to love someone else, but can that someone else be a woman?
The author tells this story in alternating points of view, and while Michael's grief was particularly well-drawn, I gotta be honest - I pretty much wanted all Rebecca, most of the time. I was a bit more compelled by her story of survival. How she managed to pick up the pieces after her attack, how it still haunted and colored her world. Also, the author introduces some added conflict surrounding Alex's twin sister that, I gotta be honest, didn't really float my boat. It seemed too "soap-opera-y" in comparison to the emotionally-intense, internal conflict that was driving the romantic storyline.
What ends up making this book for me is the latter half (for those of you who have read it - the Malibu scenes and beyond...) where Michael and Rebecca hit a crossroads. Can a relationship between them work? Is love enough? Does Michael truly love Rebecca, or does he merely appreciate all she has done to help his daughter? That's the rub, and it's what ultimately left me wrung out and limp from emotional exhaustion (but in a good way).
I'm glad I bought this book for work. Really glad. It's emotionally satisfying, heart-felt, and complex enough that it left me lingering on thoughts of what love is, how it is defined, and even if it can be defined. It's not a story that everybody will be open to, but it's one that needed to be told. Period.
Final Grade = B+